SOUTHINGTON — Residents will be able to offer opinions on a proposed budget before the Town Council votes on the spending plan next month.
The Board of Finance approved a $153.8 million budget recommendation earlier this month that would require a 1.3 percent increase in the tax rate. The council has final jurisdiction over the budget and can adjust the finance board’s recommendation.
The public hearing is scheduled for April 22 at the John Weichsel Municipal Center, 200 N. Main St., at 7 p.m.
In a 4 to 2 vote, the finance board approved a $99 million education spending plan and a $54.8 million general government plan for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
The mill rate to fund the budget would rise from 30.48 to 30.87. The mill rate is the number of tax dollars levied on every $1,000 of assessed property value.
School officials will make their case for $1,191,917 more in spending for the upcoming fiscal year. School finance director Sherri DiNello said an increase of that amount would bring the education budget to what was requested by the school board.
School Superintendent Tim Connellan said it’s important to fully fund the board’s request this year since there have been program and personnel reductions over the past few years. He and the board also proposed about $400,000 in spending on new staff for world languages and special education. Language offerings would be expanded gradually at the elementary schools over the next few years.
Chris Palmieri, Town Council chairman, Democrat and a middle school assistant principal, said he was thankful for the thorough work by the finance board. He hoped the public hearing, timed two weeks before the budget vote, would help councilors understand how the public felt about spending for the upcoming year.
“I’m looking forward to hearing from the public. I hope residents do come out,” Palmieri said.
Michael Riccio, a Republican councilor, said this year looks to be the hardest budget considering the state’s financial position. Local governments have to take into account an increasing tax burden at the state level.
“At the end of the day, we have to protect the pockets of the local taxpayers,” Riccio said. “We have to look at what’s going on at the state. The state keeps getting into everybody’s pockets day after day, more and more.
“People can only afford to pay so much,” he added. “We’re really going to have to scrutinize where the money goes this year.”